How I Failed at Networking

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Last Thursday, I decided to go to Ramit Sethi's book launch of I Will Teach You to Be Rich for three reasons:

  1. The topic of personal finance is currently one of my biggest interests.
  2. It was a great opportunity to practice networking.
  3. I had a very productive week at work, which made me feel confident, which made me want to conquer the world.
And what better place to start the conquering than a personal finance party?

Well, I failed. Completely.

In my journey of career self-discovery in the last few months, I have voraciously devoured any career-oriented blogs I could come across. Additionally, as I have been trying to get my finances in order, I attentively read blogs such as Get Rich Slowly, No Debt Plan and I Will Teach You to Be Rich.

I really enjoy Ramit's writing and his raw sense of humor (I had a great couple of days of reading when I discovered Things I Hate. I even went as far as buying Ramit's book, after many of my Twitter followees twot its praises.

Another thought on my mind for a few weeks now has been my desire and readiness to expand my network. I moved to the city and started working in January and only in the last few weeks started feeling my life settling down in a comforting routine. Now all I needed is more people around me who share my passions.

Naturally, when Facebook reminded me of Ramit's book launch in a Union Square bar in San Francisco, I printed out a few of business cards and off I went.

At 7 p.m. sharp, I excitedly pranced into the bar.

Happy Hour was still winding down, so there were a few people there who did not have anything to do with the book launch. I ordered a glass of wine and waited. I was all alone and knew no one there, so I started doing what every Gen Y-er does in a similar situation. I sat down on a bench in the hallway between the bar and the entrance, flipped through a magazine, texted my friend (who was spinning at the gym) about how awkward this is and pretended I was waiting to meet up with someone.

At 7:20, I had made no progress. I saw Ramit walking around, but he looked busy talking to people. Besides, I had absolutely no opening line and anything I could think of sounded too awkward in my head. So I sent for reinforcements.

At 7:45, I met my friend at a bus stop and we decided to return to the battlefield. The bar got fairly busy, so we ordered wine and pretended to be catching up with each other (side note: she works in the same company and on the same floor as I do). We still did not know anyone at the bar, while everyone seemed to know each other. I just could not think of a way to strike up a conversation, nor could I bring myself to do it cold turkey.

At 8 p.m. I gave up and we left.

Total failure. I was not proud of myself. Lessons?

  1. If you are going to a professionally-minded event where you anticipate meeting people, shoot a quick email to someone who you might see there in advance to tell them that you want to chat. That way, when you approach them, it is definitely less awkward (i.e. not "Hi Ramit, remember that time I tweeted you and you tweeted back?").

  2. It is always helpful to bring a friend to such an event. The advantages are numerous. One: it is for some reason easier to strike up a conversation with someone if there is two of you than if there is one. I think it just seems to be less intense. Two (selfish): it does not look as bad when the two of you are monopolizing someone's time as when there is one. You can always fight people off more easily together than by yourself. Three: if you find yourself in between conversations, you can talk to your friend and then you will not look like such a loser.

  3. And finally, be gutsy. Networking is hard, but it is fun to learn. And the best networking experience is when you are genuinely interested in what people tell you. So go do it as much as you can. I know I will be trying.

P.S. Ramit, if you are reading this -  your book better teach me how to be rich...


Ramit Sethi said...

I would have loved to have met. Next time! And that's a great tip to send an email beforehand.

Jenny B said...

I just about fell over laughing when I read this post - not AT you, just because I can totally relate. I am so happy that I found your blog. Love the title, love your writing, and incidentally as Ramit knows I stalked him at a coffee shop after the book launch. Not sure it's any more successful than not talking at a networking event, but hey - still learning. :D

I would love to chat or meet sometime since we're both local! How's that for networking? ;-)


Pigou said...

"At 7 p.m. sharp, I excitedly pranced into the bar."

That is really, really precise, my friend. Love your narrative.


Anonymous said...

Great post. And totally something I would do.

Kevin said...

I am totally honored to be mentioned in the same sentence as Ramit and JD (Get Rich Slowly).


Totally made my day yesterday when I saw this. :)